You’ve finished your novel, now what?
The next task was to go back, re-read and polish it up. At this stage, most successful authors hand the manuscript off to their trusted editors. You, on the other hand, are a nobody, fumbling along on your own. What do you do now? Try and self edit? Shell out the cash to have a pro take a look? Decisions, decisions.
What exactly does editing entail? There are two basic aspects: editing and proof-reading. A thorough edit may involve closing plot holes, altering time lines, rewriting clumsy dialogue, etc. whereas proof reading is more about finding grammatical errors, misspellings and punctuation errors.
When I finished my first novel, I picked option number one. Why? Because as a first time, unpublished author, I didn’t feel I had the luxury of going with a pro. Professional editing can get expensive. Depending on the length of your document and the level of editing you choose, it can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars. I did however, have a couple of cards up my sleeve.
One: I knew a guy. My friend Kevin (not Fictional Kevin, my other friend, real life Kevin) used to work for a big publishing house and was able to give some needed advice. He read the book for me and without actually editing, gave me some valuable pointers on polishing it up. Two: I knew another guy. (Yeah, I have a lot of guy friends!) My friend Brett is an English teacher. He gave it a once over and pointed out some of the grammatical errors I was making.
Lastly, after I had read, re-read, re-written, and corrected my errors, I handed the finished manuscript off to some beta readers. What is a beta reader? The term simply refers to a non-professional reader who will read your manuscript with an eye to finding plot holes, disruptions in continuity, grammar and spelling mistakes and possibly highlighting aspects of the story that might be unbelievable. The thing with choosing beta readers is this: make sure they aren’t just going to tell you what you want to hear because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. You NEED constructive criticism! So your mom and dad, husband or wife might not be the best choice for beta readers!
Are you in a book club? Ask your group to beta read for you. How about an online writer’s group? Some folks there might help you out. Ask your blogging buddies here on WordPress to read for you. Just be sure to choose people who will give you an honest opinion and some thoughtful feedback. And attach a copyright warning to anything you send out, too.
Finally, when you’ve made changes based on the feedback you’ve received, put the manuscript down. Walk away. Take a break and read something else. Then, after some time has gone by, pick it up and read it through one last time. There is a point at which, you just need to stop screwing with it and put it out there!